Penn National CEO Warns UK Ad Restrictions Could Reach US Sports Betting

Written By Mike Mazzeo on October 15, 2021

The United Kingdom recently tightened its regulations on sports gambling advertising, and executives caution that history could repeat itself in the US.

“It’s a concern of mine, honestly,” Penn National president and CEO Jay Snowden said during the Business of Sport US Summit.

The velocity with which the sports betting industry is expanding in the US has left regulators in several states asking: How much is too much?

“If you watch what happened in the UK over time and really aggressive forms of advertising, I think the industry was very late to act from a self-regulation standpoint,” Snowden said. “And so regulators had to create new rules because you couldn’t watch a soccer game without looking at ads non-stop and in-stadium advertising non-stop, and of course uniforms as well.

“I’m bothered by that, honestly.”

Sports betting advertisements a delicate balancing act

Finding the right balance could prove difficult.

Operators in New York, in particular, will be trying to create a sustainable business while facing a tax rate that could be 50% or higher. The advertising push in will need to cater to new online sports bettors, as well as trying to keep existing bettors from taking their business to New Jersey sportsbooks or offshore sites.

There’s potentially billions of dollars on the line.

“I grew up in this industry, I grew up in Las Vegas, I love this industry,” Snowden continued. “And I know people who have gambling problems. And I think there is a point where there’s just too much advertising.”

Specifically, Snowden mentioned companies partnering with colleges where the majority of the students are under 21. He also mentioned watching sports on TV with his 12-year-old son, who already knows a lot about sports betting as a result of all the advertising.

“I think that’s slippery,” Snowden said. “I think we all need to look in the mirror. I think there does need to be a heightened degree of self-regulation here. I think if we do it, we do it now, and if we’re serious about it, regulators won’t need to step in.”

According to Keith Whyte, Executive Director for the National Council on Problem Gambling, children should start receiving responsible gambling education at age 10.

Will the US follow in the UK’s footsteps?

In the UK, as Snowden mentioned, regulators have gone to a whistle-to-whistle advertising blackout during games. And just as the Capitals got a Caesars jersey patch sponsorship deal, the UK banned gambling patches.

“I’m not saying that we need to do all of those things now,” Snowden said. “I just think we need to be really thoughtful, and let’s not get ahead of ourselves because it is a very slippery slope.”

Lead photo: Dejan Ljamić | Dreamstime

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Mike Mazzeo

Mike Mazzeo has covered New York sports since 2010, previously working as a beat writer and columnist for ESPN (Nets), Yahoo Sports (NBA/MLB) and the New York Daily News (Yankees). His work has also been published in the New York Times, New York Post, Forbes and The Ringer.

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